Hull Marathon – Tales of a marathon ‘virgin’ …
Now the dust has settled on my first marathon, I can reflect on the last 4 months or so and perhaps give a few insights for anyone thinking of running a marathon for the first time.
I ran the Hull marathon4 man relay in 2015, but had been thinking about running a marathon for 2 or 3 years. I’d seen other people in the club do it and thought if I don’t do it now, I never will. I followed the programme laid out in The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, first published in 1998. It is based on a training programme held at the University of Northern Iowa, which took 14 students who had never ran more than 3 miles and got them to all finish the Drakes Relay Marathon. The programme is based on 4 runs a week for 16 weeks, with the longest being 18 miles. Some might regard this as quite modest compared to other programmes, but the key message of the book is that the sole object of the programme is to complete a marathon and not to worry about the time. There is a chapter for each week of the programme and both the physical and psychological aspects of preparation are covered in some detail, interspersed with the experience of the original course participants. Some people may think some of the ideas and concepts a bit far fetched but the idea of ‘creating your own reality’ is critical to successfully completing a marathon. You must be able to think you can create the circumstances that will lead to you to finish a marathon. This is a key theme of the book and is revisited a number of times throughout.
I drafted out the training programme and recorded actual miles against what the programme recommended. I didn’t do every single run, but tried to stick to the programme as best I could. The start of the programme was delayed slightly by my wedding in early June. I did most of my long runs on the old Beverley to Market Weighton railway (Hudson Way). It was quite surreal sometimes running on the old track as there are very few reference points to tell you where you are. All of a sudden, you look up and see the soaring spire of South Dalton church or the wind turbines at Sanction – you think to yourself ‘Bloody hell, I have ran that far already!’ I did do one 20 mile run by doing the Gilberdyke 10 twice – once ‘officially’ and second after a short rest and cake, ‘unofficially’ by doing the course the other way around. I followed the ‘taper’ more or less though did very little in the week before the marathon, not wanting to get injured.
Race Day – 18/9/2016
Marathon day dawned cool and overcast. I’d prepared all my gear well in advance and left Beverley at about 6.40am. I managed to find parking space near the History Centre. I walked across to the College and preparations for the event were well advanced. I went to the loo quite few times before meeting up with the first of the Harriers in Queen’s Gardens. With about 45 minutes to go I got changed and applied plenty of sun screen, despite a few quizzical looks. It turned out to be wise move as the weather warmed up considerably. I returned to Queen’s Gardens where the EHH ‘Massive’ was gathering. We had our picture taken thanks to Ashley Jacketts and dispersed to the start zone.
I stood behind the 4hr 30min pace makers, but had no real intention to keeping up with them, remembering the key theme of the book, which was to finish and not worry about a time. I started very steadily and managed to keep to 10.30 mm or thereabouts. I took water at each drinks station and must have gone to the loo at least 3 times. The 4:30 pacemakers eventually disappeared. My last loo stop was at the 6 mile mark where some familiar faces handed out water and the famous EHH jelly babies! On Boothferry Road I overtook the 5hr pacemakers and as I got towards the Humber Bridge, more and more people were clapping and handing out jelly babes, water and slices of oranges – all very welcome. On the bridge itself, my right calf was hurting and I thought it was going to cramp up at any moment. My knees and hips were also increasingly painful. I could see a few Harriers on the return leg as we dropped down towards Barton. On the return to Hessle, I was thinking, this is where the hard work begins. By the time we got though Hessle Square, it was getting very warm. The route then takes you around the Sirius Academy, which is something of a frustrating distraction, probably done to get the distance right. We crossed Diary coates flyover; ‘zigzagged’ to Goulton Street, under the A63 and onto Albert Dock. There was then a lonely mile to the Marina. The Fit-Mums ‘Angels’ were on hand to offer support and run with anyone struggling at that point, some even had wire ‘halos’ about their head. I heard the welcome sound of the last mile bell as we got to Wellington Street and knew that I was nearly there. The countdown markers were now in sight: 800m, 600m, 400m, and 200m. At the Guildhall I saw my wife, who took a picture. One final bend and I saw the Finish banner at last. I crossed it both elated and in some discomfort. I could barely walk as I picked my medal and goodie bag. I saw my wife again and she took some more pictures. I picked up my bag in Queen’s Gardens and we went for a quick drink in the Three John Scotts. The Harriers party had just started and I suspect it would be the first of many drinks that night.
Well, I’d done it. Failure was never an option. The book says if you follow the programme, you will finish the marathon and they were right. My biggest tip to anyone would be to run very steadily for the first 20 miles, perhaps even slower than when you did your long runs. This will avoid you hitting the ‘wall’ as I managed to do and give yourself best the chance to finish in one piece.
I’d like to thank my wife Liz, for putting up with my absence for hours over the summer, Bernie and Kelvin for their help and advice, Kris Lecher for keeping my hamstrings stretched and for his pearls of wisdom. Finally I’d like to thank the Harriers family for being a great bunch of people and for being (as I’ve said before) the best running club on the planet.
David A. Whitsett, Forrest A. Dolgener, Tanjala Mabon Kole The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1998). ISNB 1-57028-182-3
Amazon link: https://goo.gl/MU2mIy